Today John and Kate visited T-Mobile Park for a preview of changes coming to the ballpark in 2019, and a sneak peek at the latest menu offerings. We tried all of them, for you, and for science.
We arrived as the final big changes were underway to the ballpark’s facade (somewhere, Ryon Healy’s ears prick up). First, the lettering on the outside of the park:
The other big change: the signage and clock above the left-field bleachers.
Putting up the clock. The T-Mobile letters are wired with lights that will flash all different colors with different ballpark events. pic.twitter.com/C8RsaBDc9t— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 20, 2019
They were also working on the “Welcome to T-Mobile Park” sign above the press box today: unless anything drastically changes, that lettering will be silver-framed white with a subtle magenta highlight. It’s subtle, we promise. Honestly, we expected the magenta to be much more of a force than it is in the majority of the ballpark. It there’s much magenta on the main concourse, it’s subtle enough that we didn’t see it. The visitor dugouts have a slight magenta outline around the words “Welcome to T-Mobile Park,” but the home dugout is the Mariners logo, no magenta in sight. There are new signs on the main concourse as well, with a slightly different shape than previous years and lettering that seems a little easier to read from a distance. All major signs will reportedly be illuminated to improve visibility, particularly for night games. The T-Mobile logo is in relief at the top of each sign, sans magenta.
One place there is plenty of magenta is around the fast-track entrance for T-Mobile customers, which features an actual magenta carpet and a neon pink-outlined fence, giving a sort of disco-jail vibe. As someone who is consigned to Verizon by dint of living in an actual hole in the ground that apparently only Verizon’s cell towers can reach, Kate is currently at Costco buying a flat of mason jars in which to store up her envy. Through those gates is the equally-magentafied ‘Pen, which you can find from the main concourse by following the beaming beacon of what was previously a more sedate sign.
T-Mobile is sponsoring the ‘Pen, so while the magenta is toned down throughout the park, in the ‘Pen it’s allowed to run rampant. Witness the T-Mobile Home Run Challenge, located at the CF gates, where you can hit a ball off a tee to see how far it would travel with 4G vs. 5G (cheesy, but allowed John to flex on all other journalists in attendance). The T-Mobile spirit also manifests itself in magenta-painted pillars which will actually serve a functional purpose, serving as 30-port charging stations which afford a much better view of the game on the field than the previous charging station, buried behind a wall back by the bathrooms. Those wall-mounted charging stations will remain but will be upgraded to mini-lockers, allowing you to store your phone for charging and leave it safely stowed while taking in the action on the field or sampling some of the ‘Pen’s new food vendors. The electronically powered lockers will give you a personal locker combo which you’ll need to remember or record to input later, but even in an intoxicated state you can likely scribble down a four-digit password.
The magenta extends to the park’s new signature cocktail, created by noted Seattle mixologist Anu Apte. The “Magenta Mojo” ($12.50) is made with vodka, Lillet Blanc, Pamplemousse Rose liqueur, hibiscus, Peychaud’s bitters, and finished with soda water, The hibiscus gives the drink both a rosy hue and a floral sweetness, the Peychaud’s lends warmth and depth, and the drink’s herbal flavors and bright effervescence make it a perfect choice for a summer day. Low-ABV cocktails are on trend right now, and a lower alcohol content (8%) also means you can take this drink out of the ‘Pen and to your seats like beer and wine—no more last-minute slurping down a pricey drink because the rest of your group is ready to head to the seats. If you really want to lean into the Magenta Mojo, you can get it with a light-up flashing ice cube ($3), something at which we initially scoffed before being charmed by the pink neon glow.
Aside from the Magenta Mojo, other new additions to the drink menus at the park include the Crikey IPA and Bale Breaker’s Topcutter both being $6 value cans this year, which is excellent, as both are delicious. The drink addition we are most excited about, though, comes from Shug’s Ice Cream (located in 152 and in an adorable mint-green bicycle cart in the ‘Pen): a Prosecco float ($12.50) made with Prosecco poured over a scoop of guava sorbet. It’s crisp, light, and bubbly, perfect for those who like their sweets not-too-sweet (you could also have it over any of the other ice cream flavors available that day). Also worth trying is the “affogato” (really more of a coffee float): cold brew poured over a scoop of Lopez Island ice cream. We tried it with salted caramel ice cream and it was creamy, rich, cool perfection. The ice cream itself comes by the scoop in cups and cones, though at $7 per it’s a pricier treat.
Shug’s ice cream will be at 182 and in the pen with their mint-green bicycle cart that I must own a replica of immediately pic.twitter.com/FNDCZPT7GL— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) March 20, 2019
Competing for your dessert dollar this year is Metropolitan Market’s famous 6-oz cookie ($7). Called simply “the cookie,” because once you try one all other cookies cease to exist, this is priced about a dollar higher than we wish it was as well, but it’s worth every Belgian chocolate and fleur de sel-infused bite. It’s available at the Frozen Rope (152).
On the non-dessert side, there are several new players to explore at the park this year. Obviously, Paseo’s snatched up the early glory for bringing their well-loved pork sandwich ($16) to Edgar’s this year; the price does land alarmingly near to crab sandwich territory, but this is a filling sammy, served on a thick, chewy baguette piled high with tender roasted pork. It is a tad bit spicier than some palates might be accustomed to, owing to the pickled jalapeños and secret spices. John’s favorite was the elotes, roasted corn on the cob, available single-serve ($7) or by the bucket. Garlic-infused mayo and parmesan cheese add up to a smoky, rich, nutty treat that had John swearing vows of fealty two bites in. A more budget-friendly but equally-filling sandwich is the Grand Salami Sandwich, available at the Sultan Of Sandwich. Smoked provolone, 1⁄2 lb. of Salumi salami, grainy mustard, and local HERO Giardiniera nestle in amongst a marbled rye baguette.
The Grand Salami Sandwich ($13.50) will be on the main concourse at The Sultan of Sandwich and is as hefty a rye+salumi salami sammy you’ll find in the ballpark pic.twitter.com/cIPg7g7ksC— John Trupin (@JohnTrupin) March 20, 2019
This hefty sammy will set you back $13.50, but we cannot envision anyone consuming it and needing another bite to eat the rest of the evening. Both of us are rye-dissenters, but this was undeniably excellent.
Taking over Great State’s spot in the ‘Pen will be Li’l Woody’s. We’re a little bummed about losing the affordable Great State single, which at $8.50 was a nice alternative to Kid Valley and the like, although maybe Li’l Woody’s will present a similar option that wasn’t at the preview. UPDATE: We heard back from Li’l Woody’s and they will in fact be offering the Li’l Woody’s Burger at $9, a slightly smaller burger at an easier price point. They’ll also be offering a veggie burger with the popular Impossible Burger patty. What was at the preview: the Big Woody Burger ($11), a basic-but-tasty bacon cheeseburger; and the cleverly-named “‘95 Slide,” an order of fries with a half-shake on the side for dipping (this dish has a different, less family-friendly name at Li’l Woody’s locales). The shift also means the loss of Great State’s crinkly fries, which were also notably gluten-free. Li’l Woody’s fries looked tasty, but for the gluten-sensitive it’s an important shift.
On the swankier end of things we have the Ethan Stowell Chef-Inspired Burger that is a Hit It Here Café exclusive. With Hempler’s bacon, Beecher’s dulcet cheese, Calabrian chili aioli, grilled onions, and an organic Crowd Cow patty, this is a rich and tasty burger with a price point to match ($18). The samples we had had been sitting out a while, but the flavor was excellent all the same. If you’re already in the Hit It Here Café and feel like leaning into the experience without worrying about the budget, you’ll be plenty pleased. The Chef-Inspired burgers will be on a rotating schedule, with six different “day chefs” coming in from restaurants from around town to put their own spins on a ballpark staple. On a more universally attainable and enticing note, the KuKu Fries ($10) will also be in the Café, with a spicy Japanese furikake seasoning, gochujang chili sauce, horseradish crema, red tobiko (tiny Japanese fish eggs, so vegetarians be advised), and green onions.
The final booth of the day is from the Hit It Here Café, with the delicious and spicy KuKu Fries ($10) along with the hefty but spendy Ethan Stowell Chef Inspired Burger ($18). Both delicious, and if you’re in the Café already probably well worth it. pic.twitter.com/Zuo91XvPxg— John Trupin (@JohnTrupin) March 20, 2019
These fries were to die for, and will be worth a beeline if you find yourself up in the HIHC this summer.
We were both pleased to be impressed by the vegan & gluten-free bratwursts, spicy Italian sausage, and hamburger offerings from Beyond Meats, which will be coming to The Natural behind home plate for the first time. Multiple sources have noted disappointment with The Natural’s offerings, and Safeco is pretty limiting to those with celiac or firm vegan diets. For $8.50 the Beyond Meats hot dogs will hopefully change that experience for the better. Made of all-natural plant materials like beets, potatoes, fava beans, peas, and coconut oil, with no GMO and no soy products, the burgers and sausages both offer a flavorful, satisfying taste that doesn’t cheat anyone out of any aspect of the ballpark experience. Both of us agreed the spicy Italian was our favorite and that the sausages were the strongest of the offerings. Gluten-free buns for the dogs and the burgers will both be available, at no extra charge. Disappointingly, when we inquired about the expected cost point for the burger, we initially received a guesstimate of $12-14. The chef we asked kindly hunted down the precise number, but unfortunately returned with a prohibitive $16 tag for the standard hamburger. Those with dietary restrictions are undoubtedly familiar with being up-charged, but this seemed beyond the pale. Stick with the (excellent) sausages and hopefully the burger price will drop to a more reasonable rate.
Our favorite entry to T-Mobile’s pantheon is well-regarded community stalwart Fat’s Chicken, offering a fried chicken sandwich ($13.50) that was among the best we’ve ever had. Brined in “secret” methods (“if I told you, I’d have to do something to you, and I kinda like you” co-owner Erika White told Kate), the chicken is juicy, flavorful, and tender, shrouded in a crispy jacket that’s light and crunchy, not sad and greasy. The chicken is augmented with garlic aioli, a step up on the traditional mayo, and a house-made pimento cheese sauce that adds just the right amount of tang and richness. A fat, perfect pickle and tomato and mixed greens finish off the sandwich we will be eating all summer.
For vegetarians or just someone looking for a change of pace (or a more budget-friendly option), Fat’s Mac & Cheese ($6.50) features a rich homemade Mornay sauce of Tillamook cheddar and mozzarella punched up with Creole spices. You can find Fat’s in the ‘Pen, taking over the spot from Ethan Stowell’s chicken joint.
Everything we tried ranged from “tasty” to “very tasty” to “oh sweet fancy Moses I want to marry this.” For our tastes, the best bang for your buck are the Fat’s Chicken Sandwich or mac and cheese, the Beyond Meats sausages, and the Grand Salami Sandwich. The best snack is the roasted corn or the KuKu fries, if you happen to be near the HIHC. A treat worthy of a splurge, both price- and calories-wise, is The Cookie, the affogato, or the impossibly refreshing Prosecco float. We can’t wait to enjoy some languid, magenta-swirled evenings at the ballpark this summer, and we will see you there. We’ll be the ones hoarding all the elotes (John) or swanning about with a Prosecco float (Kate).